As Indian and Chinese traders came to Southeast Asia, they began to influence the region. Indian influence spread through trade and missionaries. Over time, Indian ideas about writing, government, science, and art spread to Southeast Asia. Some local rulers, seeking to enhance their standing by embracing many of these new ideas, adopted Indian names and political ideas. The ancient Indian language of Sanskrit came into wide use. Muslim traders from India and other regions were spreading Islam throughout the islands of Southeast Asia. Chinese influences spread to parts of mainland Southeast Asia through conquest, trade, and migration.
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Around the AD 840s a people called the Burmans made the kingdom of Pagan The kingdom was located in the fertile Irrawaddy River valley, which was ideal for rice farming. Pagan’s first great king was Anawrahta, who ruled from 1044 to 1077. Anawrahta and his successors supported Theravada Buddhism. They built thousands of magnificent Buddhist temples.
Most of Southeast Asia was strongly influenced by India. Vietnam was strongly influenced by China. Chinese rulers forced the Vietnamese to adopt the Chinese language and Chinese clothing and hairstyles. Confucianism and Daoism influenced the society. The Vietnamese adopted many features of Chinese government as well, including a bureaucracy and a Confucian-based civil service system. Vietnam embraced Buddhism, and Buddhist art and architecture influenced Vietnamese culture. Vietnam still maintained many of their traditional customs. Vietnam people were still determined to keep their own culture and identity.Trung Trac and Trung Nhi raised an army and drove the Chinese from Vietnam. The Chinese soon regained control of Vietnam.
The empire’s rulers adopted both Hindu and Buddhist. The empire’s capital city was Angkor. The temple’s central tower rises some 200 feet and may have been used as an astronomical observatory. The Khmer rulers could fund such impressive building projects because their empire had grown from rice farming. To improve agricultural production, the Khmer devised an irrigation system that covered millions of acres. With this system, the Khmer could grow several crops of rice a year.
Java, which was a island the kingdom of Sailendra was alive from about 750 to 850. The people of this kingdom relied on agriculture and trade for their livelihood. The kingdom adopted Buddhism and is known for its impressive Buddhist art and architecture. The Buddhist monument at Borobudur is the most famous Sailendra achievement.
Centered on the island of Sumatra, the wealthy Srivijaya Empire was alive from the 600s to the 1200s. The Srivijaya Empire gained its wealth from its control of overseas traders through the Malacca and Sunda straits. The rulers of Srivijaya worked to ensure that trade continued to pass through their empire. The people of Srivijaya adopted Hinduism and Buddhism. The Srivijaya capital was at at Palembang on Sumatra.